To encourage student voting by reducing wait times in line, a second polling location will open on campus for the 2018 general election, potentially in the Perry-Castañeda Library.
The Flawn Academic Center has served as UT’s sole polling location since 2005, with the Co-Op store on Guadalupe occasionally operating as an overflow location to reduce line wait times. However, voter turnout in Travis County and at UT has increased significantly since 2012 and the FAC saw wait times of up to 2 or 3 hours during the 2016 election and the 2018 general election primaries.
Maya Patel, vice president of TX Votes, said these increased wait times discourage voting for students who need to attend class or don’t have time to wait in line for hours.
“A lot of students end up not voting because they see the long lines and they decide they have other things to do other than wait in a three-hour line to vote,” chemistry junior Patel said.
Patel and TX Votes president Zachary Price teamed up with the University Democrats, who had been working on the same project with Rep. Gina Hinojosa.
The two organizations then passed legislation with the help of Travis County Clerk Dana Debeauvoir, who designated the PCL as the optimal location for a new polling place due to its distance from the FAC and its accessibility for non-student voters.
Although legislation has been passed for a second polling location, the PCL still needs to be approved by the Travis County Commissioners Court before it can be made the official location said Ronald Morgan, Travis County deputy clerk.
“Vote centers have certain requirements,” Morgan said. “The county clerk’s office and the elections division makes a recommendation to the court as to where those go, and we’re very happy to recommend the PCL as the second voting center, but it is not official until the court approves it.”
Allie Runas, University Democrats president, said the second polling location was a kind of passion project for her after witnessing students leaving the line before getting to vote in order to attend class.
“Every election day we know how bad lines are going to get because not a lot of students vote early and it all compounds into one day where everyone waits in line for three hours,” Runas said. “We wanted to make sure we had a second location to support the volume of people voting on campus. It just breaks my heart seeing kids who want to vote get out of line because they need to go to class and they’ve been waiting for two hours already.”
Patel said that although a second polling location is opening, they need students to vote there in the fall in order to keep the location up and running.
“While a lot of students are used to voting at the FAC, just try not to forget there’s a second option now,” Patel said. “If we want to keep this polling location for elections to come we have to get students voting at it and voting early at it.”